Updated: October 6, 2021 7:40:27 am
THE VIDEO clip of an SUV mowing down farm protesters in Lakhimpur Kheri raised the heat on the UP government Tuesday, with farm leader Rakesh Tikait calling for the arrest of Union MoS and BJP MP Ajay Mishra and his son for their alleged involvement in the incident and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the issue during his visit to Lucknow.
At Lakhimpur Kheri, the families of three of the four farmers who were killed after being hit by three SUVs, including one owned by Union MoS Mishra, conducted their last rites while the cremation of the fourth victim was held up with his family alleging that he had been shot by Mishra’s son Ashish and that the post mortem report was “incorrect”.
On Monday, with Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait mediating to defuse escalating tension in Lakhimpur Kheri, UP Police had registered an FIR on charges of murder against Ashish who, the farm protesters alleged, was driving one of the SUVs. But police had denied that shots were fired in the incident, which triggered violence that led to four other deaths.
The FIR is based on a complaint lodged by Jagjit Singh, a farm protester, who stated that the incident was part of a “pre-planned conspiracy” by Union MoS Mishra and his son.
On Tuesday, Tikait called for the Minister to be sacked, and arrested along with his son. Referring to the “truce” from the previous day, with the UP government promising a judicial probe and compensation for the victims’ families, Tikait posted on Twitter: “The decision in Lakhimpur Kheri is not the end of the movement. The Minister should be sacked and he, along with his son, must be arrested immediately. The government must fulfill its promises in the time decided.”
He told reporters later that they have “given a week to the government to arrest” Mishra’s son. Tikait said that “we will gather here again on the day of bhog” — 13 days after the deaths of the four farmers — to “decide future strategy”.
UP DGP Mukul Goel said no one has been arrested in the incident so far. The UP government, however, set up a six-member committee headed by an Additional SP-rank officer and including two DySP and three Inspector-rank officers to “help in the investigation into two cases lodged in connection” with the incident.
In his complaint, Jagjit Singh stated: “We were holding a peaceful protest at Maharaja Agrasen Inter College ground. The incident happened around 3 pm when Union MoS for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish came in three four-wheel vehicles, with arms and weapons, at a high speed. Ashish Mishra, while sitting on the left side of the Mahindra Thar car, fired shots and crushed people while moving forward.”
Big test for govt
With fresh details out, there will be more pressure from protesters and the Opposition on the UP government. After getting BKU leader Rakesh Tikait to placate farmers, the Yogi government's next big test will be on action against the Union Minister’s son.
The complaint stated: “Due to the firing, Gurvinder Singh died, and other farmers who were on the road were crushed under the car. His cars then lost control and toppled in a ditch as they were speeding, injuring passersby. He then ran away and hid in the sugarcane (field).”
Singh stated that the “sequence of events started after Minister Mishra’s video went viral where he was threatening to evict farmers from the state… No action was taken against the MoS for the above-mentioned video. Today, his son did this. The incident was done as part of a pre-planned conspiracy by the Minister and his son.”
According to a PTI report, the FIR stated: “The numbers of the speeding vehicles, which cruelly crushed the farmers standing on both sides of the roads are UP 31 AS 1000 and UP 32 KM 0036, while the third vehicle (whose number is not confirmed) was a Mahindra Scorpio.”
The FIR was lodged Monday against Ashish Mishra and 15-20 unidentified people at Tikunia station in Lakhimpur Kheri under eight IPC sections, including for murder and causing death by negligence.
Speaking to reporters in Lakhimpur Kheri, MoS Mishra said “the allegations are false” and claimed that his son was not present at the site during the incident.
Earlier Tuesday, AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who had been prevented the previous day by the state government from travelling to Lakhimpur Kheri and put up at a guest house in Sitapur, was arrested along with 10 others to “prevent the commission of cognizable offences”.
According to Sitapur Police, those arrested included Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda, UP Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu and MLC Deepak Singh. AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh was also arrested under section 151 of CrPC.
Priyanka, meanwhile, issued a video statement directed at Modi’s Lucknow visit, and played the clip that showed the SUV hitting the protesters. “This video shows the son of your Minister mowing down farmers under his vehicle. Watch this video and tell the country why this Minister hasn’t been suspended and why the boy hasn’t been arrested yet. You have arrested Opposition leaders like me without any order or FIR, and I want to ask why this person is free,” she said.
In a statement, the BKU described the “new video evidence” as “shocking” and “distressing”.
In Lakhimpur Kheri, family members conducted the last rites of Diljeet Singh (35), Nachhattar Singh (55) and Lovepreet Singh (19). But the cremation of Gurvinder Singh (18) was held up.
Speaking to reporters, Gurvinder’s father Sukhvinder Singh, a resident of Nanpara in Bahraich, said: “My son was shot. Minister Ajay Mishra’s son Monu (Ashish) shot him. We should be given justice. They have given a wrong post mortem report. We should get justice.”
Another post mortem of Gurvinder’s body was done at the Bahraich district hospital on Tuesday evening and the result is awaited, said an official. “A team of doctors from Lucknow has been flown in a helicopter to conduct the post mortem again,” the official said.
Lovepreet’s family had also initially refused to conduct the last rites but agreed to proceed after speaking to Tikait. While Gurvinder and Diljeet were from neighbouring Bahraich district, Nachhattar and Lovepreet hailed from Lakhimpur Kheri.
In its statement, BKU said that the Samyukt Kisan Morcha “maintains that one of the deceased protestors, Gurvinder Singh, was shot dead”.
“Samyukt Kisan Morcha demands the immediate arrest of the Minister, his son and accomplices and also demands the dismissal of the Union Minister Ajay Mishra and Haryana CM Khattar. (The) agitation will not be called off until these demands are met, and a programme of action will be announced soon for the same,” it said.
DGP Goel said all video clips related to the incident will be sent for examination and investigators will also probe whether any firing took place at the site. Internet services, which were snapped soon after Sunday’s incident, were also restored in the district.
MoS Mishra told reporters that at the time of the incident, his son “was at the venue for the programme” in Banveerpur village, which was to be attended by UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
The venue “is around 4 km from the spot where the incident happened on Sunday,” Mishra said, adding that “we have all the evidence to prove it”.
Mishra said he would visit the homes of the two BJP workers who were killed in the violence triggered by the incident, apart from his driver and a journalist. “Those BJP workers who were going to receive the guests were beaten to death… An FIR has been lodged based on a complaint against the rioters,” he said.
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